HCRI Linked with History-Making Aeronautics

A connection between a stuttering research institute and the National Air and Space Museum may seem unusual. Yet, Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – https://www.stuttering.org ) has two history-making links to the world of flight that are part of the Smithsonian collections in Washington, D.C.

As the pioneer in behavioral stuttering therapy, Webster’s institute has treated nearly 6,000 people who stutter from across the United States and 47 other countries. Clients come from all backgrounds and include athletes, teachers, engineers, students, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, paramedics, caregivers, pilots, and even royalty. And, indeed, some of these individuals and their relatives have made a lasting mark on history.

One of HCRI’s clients is Annie Glenn, wife of former senator and astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 and the oldest person to fly in space at the age of 77. Glenn has logged more than 218 hours in space and is recognized as a national hero. In addition to his many NASA accomplishments, Glenn’s career also includes serving as a Marine colonel, business executive, and U.S. Senator.

Even with his extensive commitments in space and on earth, Glenn set aside time to accompany his wife and participate in many HCRI events through the years, including the institute’s reunions, building dedication, and anniversary celebrations.

An impressive collection of items from Glenn’s space missions is on display year round at the National Air and Space Museum. In addition, the Smithsonian honored Glenn as the centerpiece of the museum’s heralded “Milestones of Flight” exhibit in 2004.

Aviation enthusiasts will also find another link to HCRI at the National Air and Space Museum – a 1930s-vintage Lockheed Vega called “Winnie Mae.” The plane was originally owned by F.C. Hall of Oklahoma, an oil tycoon and grandfather of long-time HCRI supporter, program participant, and board member Charles Fain, who recently passed away. Hall hired Wiley Post as his private pilot for Winnie Mae, which he named after his daughter who was Fain’s mother.

Post was an ambitious and daring one-eyed pilot. Winnie Mae was one of the most advanced planes of its era. The combination, along with a strong bond that quickly grew between Post and Hall, created an ideal set of circumstances for changing the record books.

In 1931, Post made history with Winnie Mae and the help of a navigator by setting an around-the-world speed record of 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes. Then, two years later, he beat his own trans-world time by 21 hours. The aviator flew solo on the second journey, using new aeronautical tools – an autopilot device and radio direction finder.

During that time, Post also set his sights on breaking altitude records. Yet, Winnie Mae’s cabin could not be pressurized, representing a challenge to the ace pilot. So Post worked in partnership with the B.F. Goodrich company to develop the first pressurized flight suit that he later used to fly as high as 50,000 feet and discover the jet stream. His flight suit paved the way for the future of pressurized flight.

Winnie Mae is on display in the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Post’s pressurized flight suit is also on exhibit at the museum.

“In addition to these fascinating links to the National Air and Space Museum, we have treated many pilots over the years who have come to HCRI for stuttering treatment,” Webster said. The HCRI president is a pilot himself, as well as a licensed psychologist and professor emeritus of psychology at Hollins University.

“While HCRI’s connections to aviation history are most interesting, our greatest satisfaction comes from helping people from all walks of life acquire the skills to speak fluently,” Webster emphasized.

The institute offers 17 stuttering therapy programs annually, each of which lasts 12 days. After participating in the intensive treatment, clients continue to benefit from a host of post-therapy support tools and often maintain close contact with the institute’s clinicians and staff throughout their lives. The tools and ongoing contact help HCRI program participants maintain fluency skills, as they navigate life’s many paths.

For Webster and his HCRI team, long-term relationships with clients enable them to witness the transforming effect fluency brings to people’s lives. “We find HCRI’s stuttering treatment program serves a catalyst for releasing human potential. Watching people have doors of opportunity open through fluent speech serves as a ‘living exhibit’ of the power of behavioral stuttering treatment,” Webster added.

About HCRI

Hollins Communications Research Institute was founded by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Under Webster’s direction, Roanoke, Virginia-based HCRI, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of innovative, scientifically based therapy approaches. For more information, visit https://www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 540-265-5650 or admin@stuttering.org .